Perhaps you’re a culinary expert. Then again, you might consider yourself an average home cook who loves to experiment with flavors, ingredients and plate presentation. Either way, there’s a trending method of cooking you might want to try. It’s called “sous vide,” which is a French term that means “under vacuum.” It’s pronounced like this: sue veed. When you think of pressure cooking, it likely evokes images in your mind of country women canning jars and jars of green beans and other garden goodies from a summer harvest. Sous vide is a method of cooking that is similar to the canning process. The good news is that it’s a LOT less labor-intensive.
I’ll be the first to admit that not only have I not tried sous vide cooking, I didn’t know what it was. When I heard the term, I had to do a quick online search too see what such devices look like and how to use them. I’m intrigued. If you’re reading this and have prepared a meal by the sous vide method, we want to hear from you! Do you love it or hate it? Does it live up to the accolades it gets for consistently producing meals cooked to perfection? If you visit this post on the Hot Mess Press Facebook page, you can leave a comment and tell us “all the things” about your sous vide experience!
Let’s back up and explain more about sous vide cooking
Sous vide cooking basically involves an immersion circulatory device that you place in a water bath on your stove top. The biggest reported benefit to this type of cooking is that it enables precision regarding temperature and timing. You place the device in your pot and wait for the water to reach the desired, exact temperature. You then place food in a vacuum sealed bag or regular old freezer bag and clip it to the side of you pot (on the inside of the pot, of course!). That’s it, for the most part. You simply walk away and your sous vide device does its thing. People who love sous vide cooking say they consistently end up with meals cooked to perfection.
Things you can cook with the sous vide method
Sous vide cooking is especially popular for cuts of meat or fish, such as chicken, ribs, steak or salmon. However, you can also cook vegetables this way, including root veggies such as potatoes or carrots, as well as all other manner of vegetable-ness, such as cauliflower, asparagus or broccoli. As I researched various guidelines and recipes for using a sous vide device, I discovered that there’s a specific food item that gets all the raves, and that’s eggs.
Cooking eggs via sous vide is a little different than cooking veggies, meat or fish. You may have already guessed why. You don’t need a bag! Eggs are already in a shell, so the shell acts as the vacuum sealed baggie! You just do the rest of the steps to set timing and temperature and place the egg in the water bath. Okay, so you might have read that and thought, “That’s nothing more than hard-boiling an egg.” lol
Technically, you’d be correct. However, from what I read about sous vide cooking, the difference lies in the ability to cook with precision. You can select the exact temperature for an exact amount of time. This enables to cook eggs to various textures and consistencies, such as hard-boiled, soft boiled or poached. Many home cooks use eggs in sauces, as well, so you could also set your controls to produce an egg for that purpose.
Check out this video to see how it works
Here’s a quick video of sous vide cooking in action. Keep in mind, however, that the device is the part immersed in the water. You use your own pot, although Sam’s Club has a set for under $200 that comes with a container. It’s featured in the title image of this post. Some people choose to buy commercial sized stock pots while others use what they have on hand at home. The person in this video used a teensy weensy pot, which would suit the purpose for a one or two person household:
The size of your pot and water level capacity determines how much food you can cook at the same time. If you are cooking multiple cuts of steak, for instance, you’ll want there to be enough room for one gallon of water per steak. There are other rules of thumb, such as it’s best to place each piece of meat in its own bag to ensure that the water will circulate all around it. While it IS possible to cook various steaks to different degrees, such as medium rare or well done, that’s a bit more tricky. You’ll want to learn more about it before attempting it.
Extra step that you won’t want to skip for sous vide meat or fish
People who love sous vide cooking say that, especially for meat, it retains its juices and is, therefore, more flavorful than food cooked by traditional methods. Makes your mouth water thinking about it, right? (Here comes the “but”…)
When you pressure cook meat or fish in a water bath, it isn’t going to have that crispy outer layer that most people love. There’s a simple fix. You simply sear the meat or fish after the sous vide device says its done. You can sear it in a pan or on the grill. If you skip that step, though, you can’t expect your steak or chicken or ribs or salmon to have that crisp, flaky outer layer. It won’t. If you have your pan or grill ready to go, it should only take a few extra minutes to sear your beef, pork, chicken or fish.
Advanced technology options available
If you’re the type of person who loves “smart” everything, you’ll be glad to know there are sous vide devices with Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity. Rather than having control settings on the physical unit, these devices are synced with an app that you install on your cell phone. You can set timing, temperature, etc. through the app.
Is there a downside?
Some say there is a greater risk of food-borne illness if you are cooking meat in a water bath. There happens to be an Advanced Sous Vide Safety team, which claims that this method of cooking is no more dangerous than traditional styles of preparing meat. One of the recommendations the team provides is to make sure the bags you place the meat in are food grade and suitable for cooking.
Restaurants have used sous vide for years
Using sous vide methods to cook food is said to take your home cooking game to professional levels. That’s because restaurant chefs have been using this method for years. From what I understand, the difference is that the devices that were available for commercial kitchens were big, bulky and expensive. As time passed, the products were streamlined for size, user-friendliness and affordability. If you look at the size of the device in the video shown earlier in this post, you’ll notice how small it is. It wouldn’t take up a lot of room in a kitchen.
As with most culinary products, styles and prices vary. I think you could expect to spend anywhere from $200 on up if you want to buy a sous vide device. Sous vide devices are now counted among other kitchen items that help save time and add convenience to cooking. It’s definitely a trending way to cook, and we’d love to hear about it if you try it!